East Meets West: Cross-Cultural Influences in Glassmaking in the 18th and 19th Centuries


West Bridge
November 18, 2010 to October 30, 2011

When East met West in the courts and trade centers of the 13th century, a fruitful international exchange was born and lasted through several centuries. East Meets West: Cross-Cultural Influences in Glassmaking in the 18th and 19th Centuries explored the resulting cross-cultural influences in technology, scientific experimentation, and decoration among glassmakers in Europe, China, and Japan. Through a range of Museum objects from the early modern period, East Meets West documented the European adoption of traditional Asian styles and iconography, and examined the largely overlooked impact of Westerners—missionaries, alchemists, and craftsmen—on the development of new glassmaking techniques and formulas in the East.

Drawing on the long tradition of porcelain making, glassmakers in China blew and enameled opaque white glass for foreign and local markets. The Museum’s scientific analysis by X-ray fluorescence of a few of these objects in its collection has revealed that the composition of some of the white glass used in the East is closely related to the milk glass made by German craftsmen. In East Meets West, Knothe suggested that a connection to the community around Kilian Stumpf, a missionary and scientist who organized a glassworks in Beijing in the 1680s, may be the reason for such results.

“Until now, scholars have tended to focus primarily on the influence of Eastern decorative styles on Western markets and objects,” said curator of European glass Florian Knothe. “With this exhibition, we will showcase an incredible cultural and technological exchange that is, in fact, much more textured and fluid, with channels of influence running in both directions. The role of Western craftsmen and scientists—such as Stumpf—in facilitating advancements in Eastern glass manufacturing cannot be overlooked.”

Pair of Enamel Painted Bird and Flower Vases - Artwork
Snuff Bottle with Cork Stopper - Artwork
Bottle - Artwork
Chinese-style Cameo Vase - Artwork
2 Sakazuki Decanters and 5 Piece Sakazuki Cup Set - Artwork
Hyalith Beaker - Artwork